School of Piano Technology for the Blind to close

The School of Piano Technology for the Blind is closing its doors and transferring its assets into a permanently endowed fund, effective later this year.

In a press release issued late Thursday afternoon, the organization said the world has changed in ways that have impacted the school’s core programming, noting that educational and employment opportunities for the blind and visually-impaired have improved dramatically.

The Vancouver-based school has taught and trained blind and visually-impaired students to tune and repair pianos since it was established in 1949 by Emil Fries. The only vocational training program of its kind, the school has graduates from more than 40 states and 16 foreign countries.

By transferring assets into a permanently endowed fund (in the name of Emil B. Fries), the school hopes to create a lasting impact through annual grants to organization serving the blind and visually-impaired community.

“When my grandfather, Emil, founded the school there were very few options available for blind and visually-impaired individuals to find work that provided true financial independence,” explained Doug Hunt, a school board member and Fries family representative. “The record shows that 70 percent of the school’s graduates went on to a career in the piano technology field and have earned up to $75,000 per year, with an annual average of $46,000. More than anything, Emil was a visionary who helped open the door for blind and visually-impaired individuals to pursue a wide array of career options, and we know that he would be proud to have left such a legacy.”

Kim Capeloto, chair of the school’s board, added, “We want to acknowledge and thank the many foundations, individual donors and volunteers who have generously supported the school with their time, talent and resources over these many years. This support has enabled us to change the lives of our students, enrich communities and maintain a solid financial position that will establish Emil’s endowment and continue to benefit causes supporting blind and visually-impaired individuals.”

Because the school is currently between enrollment periods, no students will be affected by the closure. Piano retail sales will wind down operations over the next few months. The organization’s piano tuning program will continue to operate through a succession plan that is being finalized.